Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Die Hard in Singapore

I came home yesterday to an apocalyptic scene with groups of people setting fires around the base of my flats. It looked like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie with smoke drifting across the concrete landscape as if to try and hide the buildings from enemy fire. No one was being arrested or fined, each group quietly intent on their own conflagration. It's the middle of the eighth lunar month in the Chinese calender, so it's the start of the hungry ghost festival.

Hungry ghosts wander about causing trouble so earth-bound relatives keep them appeased with offerings. You need to burn Hell Money, joss-sticks & candles, and leave food offerings (usually a couple of oranges). It was nice to see some people actually using the provided BBQ-like braziers. It doesn't do anything for the smoke but there's less mess around the flats.

I'm going to have trouble with this if it goes on too long. I have a slight sore throat anyway (I'm bravely fighting off the major infection going around work) but even with my door closed, suffering in the resulting hot apartment, I went to bed with my eyes stinging from the smoke.

This morning, the Indian maintenance guys are doing their best to clear up but they don't interfere with anything still smoldering, and the remains of the wax candles are hard to clear. The joss-sticks are usually placed in threes with their bases stuck in the same spot so when they burn down to just the sticks, they look like the triggers of anti-personnel mines buried in the grass verges.

I haven't figured out the exact logic with respect to the ghosts. You don't get rid of rats by putting food out and I wonder if ghosts are really bothered by the smoke. I suppose quietly ignoring the ghosts is out of the question?